A waste industry that includes the sale of plastic, rubber, paper and other recyclables is booming, with a $1 billion market for recycled products that includes $1.2 billion in sales in the United States alone.
But with more than 1.4 billion people worldwide, waste is the second-largest consumer of energy, and the most costly.
“You’ve got to have the mindset to take a lot of responsibility,” said Bill Salsbury, CEO of Waste Industries of America.
“And to actually be proactive, you’ve got a lot more than just recycling.”
The $1 trillion market in recycled products has grown to include some of the biggest names in the industry, including Coca-Cola, Kraft and General Mills.
And while most Americans have seen the positive effects of their efforts to curb plastic waste, the industry is also on the verge of a new challenge.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering requiring that all plastic and other waste be incinerated at least 90 percent of the time.
But Salsburys group, Waste Industries, is calling for a radical shift.
He’s advocating recycling at least 60 percent of all plastics, but only after the waste has been disposed of.
“The majority of plastic is either discarded, in a landfill, or burned in an incinerator,” said Salsbys organization’s CEO, John Gorman.
“I think we can do a lot better, a lot faster, to eliminate plastic from our economy than the EPA is doing right now.”
Salsbian said the recycling movement is not about recycling, but about changing consumer behavior.
He said that most Americans don’t even know what plastic is or what it does.
“So if we’re going to change consumer behavior, we’ve got something to do with that,” he said.
“We’re talking about a lot bigger than just the amount of plastic.
And if we can get our consumer to embrace it, it will make a huge difference.”
The problem with the industry According to Salsbanys group’s report, a whopping 57 percent of Americans said they had not recycled their waste.
Another 22 percent said they never recycled their plastics at all.
“One of the things that’s really important for us to do is start thinking about what’s really going to get our waste out of the landfill, because that’s the biggest barrier to recycling,” Salsbaugh said.
The organization is also pushing for a national recycling program to help reduce the waste in the U.S. from landfills.
Salsbys group is working to pass a bill in Congress, called the Waste Waste Reduction Act, that would require companies to recycle 60 percent or more of all their waste by 2025.
In the United Kingdom, the countrys largest recycling company, Pembroke, has committed to recycling 70 percent of its waste.
“It’s one of the reasons why we think recycling is a big market opportunity,” said David Waddington, PEMbroke’s sustainability manager.
“When we look at the amount that is being disposed of in the landfill in this country, it’s not a good idea to throw it away.
So we’ve decided to invest in the waste management system that’s going to keep our waste in landfilling.”
A new approach for recycling The Waste Industries report says that recycling is just one piece of a larger strategy to tackle waste.
The group also has called for a more ambitious recycling program that would replace more than a billion pounds of paper and plastic every year.
Waddins plans to start an innovative waste recycling program in 2020 that will begin by recycling plastic bags and other items that don’t need to be disposed of, such as clothing and shoes.
He also plans to launch a program that will replace plastic packaging in grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses.
“A lot of the plastic that we produce ends up in landfill, and when we take those plastic items out of those landfill systems, we actually end up creating a better product, better quality product, and we’re actually helping to reduce waste,” said Waddings co-founder, Michael Krummel.
Wintry weather is another problem for Salsbinys recycling program.
Wadding said that although some parts of the United State have had unusually warm temperatures, the U to B program is already seeing the benefits of the weather.
“Most of our waste is being recycled in the warmest weather,” said Krummaso.
“That’s the beauty of recycling.”